The Final Tune Up

So this is it for us intrepid hunters of grouse and woodcock. Only a few days left before the opener in New Hampshire, and the Vermont grouse and woodcock seasons open in less than 48 hours. Thanks to the wet spring and early summer that we had, it seems as though our foliage is brilliant and perhaps a bit ahead of schedule than in years past, which is a good thing when you're trying to hit an acrobatic grouse on his well arbored escape route.

We've been out scouting as often as possible over the last two months, and we had some better days this week. While we are still making contact with the occasional brood of grouse, there have been far more singles and doubles this week, so perhaps the fall shuffle has begun.

The woodcock that we've encountered have mostly been in close proximity of each other, in appropriate cover for them. Today I was able to take this picture of woodcock drillings in a freshly created woods road that was pretty muddy and hadn't set up much yet. Apparently they must have liked it, because there was lots of splash and a lot of these drillings around. And what of the woodcock, you may ask? We never saw one, so they must have only been using this area exclusively for feeding.

Yesterday morning we managed to point
(and sometimes disturb) seven grouse and seven woodcock in about two hours of scouting, while today we only managed one grouse in two points, with one grouse sneaking out before I could get to Rudy. That's the way it has been - good to great in some of our sessions, while others have been just a great walk in the woods.

That's why it's hunting and I would have it no other way

More Scouting, and an Indoctrination

Foliage is already beginning to change up here!
We've been out in the woods several times over the last week, looking for some evidence of grouse and woodcock, with mixed results. It's always tough to tell what's going on at this time of year, as the grouse are still in their family units and not widely distributed yet, but it's still great exercise for the dogs and myself regardless.

We've also started the low scale training of Bode, the newest addition to the guide lineup (who should be doing his thing next fall I hope) by running with the older dogs. This seems to be the best training, as Bode already is soaking in some of Monty and Rudy's lessons while we've been out there. Although the woods are extremely dry right now, it's still tough for a pup to get through, so we're taking our time with the little guy. At only 9 - 10 weeks old, his little legs can only carry him so far ...

Rudy, Bode and Monty, looking for grouse in August
While we've seen a few woodcock here and there, the grouse numbers have been low so far, except for last Friday evening. After a fruitless beginning to our scouting mission, Monty suddenly went on a beautiful point in a stand of mature yellow birch and spruce. After a short search, I rounded a small knoll and saw the outline of a grouse about 20 yards away - then everything broke loose and I lost count of how many grouse there were - 8 maybe, and of pretty good size. This is the first large brood that we've encountered this summer, and we hope there's a lot more of them out there this fall.

Mast Crops, northern style

There's plenty to eat out there for the animals now, the bears and the birds especially. Lots and lots of chokecherries currently, and raspberries too, with the last remnants of the blueberry harvest lingering around. The apple crop looks especially good this year (perhaps all of that rain this summer was good for something), so expect to find grouse in those old apple orchards again this fall.

We also found a low growing plant with clusters of red berries that I believe is properly called Eastern Teaberry, but that is commonly called "partridge berry" - I'm sure that someone will correct me if I'm wrong. I guess that our feathered friends eat these too on occasion, as they are readily available for the grouse on the forest floor.

Went out for a couple of hours this morning and got a couple of solid woodcock points from Rudy - the season is under two months away now, and we can't wait.

2013 Summer Training

Monty On Point July 30
Yes, it's a green hell of foliage when you're trying to get through the woods at this time of year, but it's still pretty fun just to be out there anyway, especially when a beeper goes off or a bell suddenly goes silent. An hour and a half in the woods this morning with Rudy (bell) and Monty (beeper) yielded 3 grouse finds and 3 woodcock finds - not bad for what everyone thinks may be a lean fall for the birds.

The first was a pair of grouse in a tree that Monty found and Rudy backed on - sorry about the quality of the picture, as I'm also getting the kinks out of my film taking as well. Then the rest were singles: one woodcock that Monty pointed alone, another woodcock that was double teamed, and a third woodcock that Rudy pointed on his own. There was also a bumped grouse in there too, so the boys aren't perfect ... yet.

Lots of water brought along this morning - make sure you do the same when you're running your dogs prior to the season.

Will we see many pictures like this in the fall?

That is the question that many of us grouse hunting enthusiasts are asking this very rainy summer (so far). Up here in the north country, we have endured nearly six weeks of less than desirable grouse rearing weather - cold and rainy, which is not what we're looking for to have exciting days this fall with our four legged friends.

To say that this spring and early summer have been almost diametrically opposed to last year's hot, dry summer, is an understatement. As those of you that hunted up here last year know, that turned in to a bumper crop of young birds and one of our best falls in twenty years in northern New England. Mother nature is a fickle mistress however, so I hope for some restraint in the havoc she has wreaked on our bird population this spring.

I'll know a little more about how the young grouse weathered these conditions when I start running the dogs in August, and whatever we find, we'll all be out there in October and November regardless ...

April 16 Update

It appears as though our long winter may be over at last. There's still some snow out there, but it's going away fast now and hopefully we'll have totally bare ground soon. The recent warming trend also means it's time to get the dogs out, prior to the breeding season for our grouse and woodcock.

While we've been seeing decent numbers of grouse all winter, it was particularly nice to see some of our woodcock returning from warmer climes this week. The timberdoodles are definitely back now, and we were fortunate to run in to eight of them this morning, along with four grouse, in a little over two hours of scouting. We also saw a good amount of them a couple of mornings ago too, so we'll hope that we have a dry and warm nesting season for all of our feathered friends.

Rudy and Monty did a great job as usual and seem to be in mid-season form already -
check them out on this video.